Unwrapping the NBA’s Christmas Day matchups
By Jed Mabazza, Staff Writer
Christmas is around the corner and that means the much-awaited NBA Christmas games are too. These games will surely dial the intensity up a notch to what has already been an exciting NBA season.
Here’s the matchups for Dec. 25:
Atlanta Hawks @ New York Knicks
NBA Christmas day will kick off at 10 a.m. MT as the Atlanta Hawks will visit the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks will seek to gain a season series advantage over the Hawks as they have already won their first of three bouts against them. Any game against the Hawks is a big day for the Knicks, not just the players or coaching staff, but for the fanbase as well.
In last year’s playoffs, Trae Young single-handedly finished off the Knicks in five games. Fans will never forget when Young gave a final bow mid court after nailing a three point dagger to eliminate the Knicks. That’s gotta hurt to see as a Knicks fan, considering the team had a seven-year playoff drought.
Young has cemented himself as the villain to the Knicks organization, but could he be the grinch who steals a Christmas win from the Knicks fans? It’s tough to say at this point. Both teams aren’t quite where they want to be in the standings right now compared to last year. The Hawks rank seventh in the East while the Knicks rank 10th. Either way, it’ll be fun to see if the Knicks can continue their revenge campaign or if Young can upset the fans once more.
Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks
The next battle will feature the Boston Celtics against the defending NBA champs, the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston has a lot to prove in this game as the team hasn’t been as strong as they were expected to be, ranking eighth in the conference at the time of writing. But that’s part of the growing pains that come with having a new head coach. On the other hand, the Bucks have gradually bounced back since their slow start to the season, now ranking fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The key matchup of this game will be Giannis Antetokounpo vs. Jayson Tatum, both all-star level players who are not very different from each other in the major statistical categories. Giannis has a slight advantage, but it will be an exciting matchup to watch. For either team, a win could be like a Christmas miracle.
Golden State Warriors @ Phoenix Suns
In my opinion, this is a must watch game. If this game were a boxing match, it would be the main event, all the other games would just be exhibitions. The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns are by far the best teams in the entire NBA this season. Steph Curry is back in MVP form and is currently leading in Kia’s MVP ladder at the time of writing. What’s more exciting is that you could see the splash brothers back in action with Klay Thompson’s much awaited return, which could happen anytime now.
On the other hand, the Suns have picked up right where they left off last year. They currently are at the top of the Western Conference and have the longest win streak in the NBA this season, standing at 18.
A lot of people will be watching to see Chris Paul, the point god, and Steph Curry, the evolution of the modern day point guard, battle it out. Others might just be supporting their hometown team. Either way, this game will be a nailbiter for sure. Both teams have deep benches and are two of the most elite teams in the NBA right now.
Brooklyn Nets @ Los Angeles Lakers
This is a decent matchup to watch if you’re trying to pass the time. It seems to me that the Lakefront retirement home will have to do more than just win a game of Bingo against the Brooklyn Nets. Things aren’t looking so pretty for the Los Angeles Lakers right now as they rank sixth in the Western Conference and seem far from being championship contenders. They’ll have home court advantage against a still-solid Brooklyn Nets team that’s missing their all-star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Don’t get me wrong, this will still be an interesting game to watch, considering that the Lakers may be without Lebron James’ services (stuck in health and safety protocols). The Lakers still have a strong lineup of big name players including Anthony Davis, Russel Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and DeAndre Jordan. This seems like an even matchup as the Nets have Kevin Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills to offer as their best players. Regardless, bring out your eggnog or whatever holiday drink suits your fancy and watch the NBA’s best veterans battle it out.
Dallas Mavericks @ Utah Jazz
To cap off the night, the Dallas Mavericks will visit the Utah Jazz. The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is adored all over the world, so it makes sense that the NBA wants to capitalize on their international viewership by featuring his game on Christmas Day. This will clearly be a battle between Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell. Both are superstars on their teams and both are similar statistically this season. Though Doncic does have a slight statistical edge in most playing categories compared to Mitchell.
Both teams have a big time star, but are not quite, clear championship contenders. They’re still one star away from being serious threats for the title. Even though Dallas is viewed as the more offensive-minded team in the matchup, the Jazz have a higher offensive rating than the Mavericks. While it may seem that the Jazz have a higher chance to get the win, never doubt what Luka Doncic and Mavs Head Coach Jason Kidd can cook up.